Outside Magazine Announces Winners Of Annual Active Travel Awards

april coverIt’s award season, and we don’t just mean the Oscars or the Golden Globes. Travel publications the world over have announced their annual “bests” and “favorites,” but we at Gadling are particularly excited to see a new award ranking that focuses on a subject close to our hearts: adventure and active travel.


Outside magazine has just announced their annual 2013 Active Travel Award winners. To select this year’s awards, Outside’s correspondents spent months on the road traveling from the Philippines to Switzerland to Namibia and then some, to report a definitive roundup of the best new adventures, secret paradises, mountain epics, stunning beaches, airline deals, gorgeous islands and more.

“In addition to truly award-worthy destinations and travel providers, this year we unearthed a handful of amazing new frontiers in active travel. Our annual edit franchise honors the year’s best trips, hotels, lodges, luggage, islands and new destinations that will be an invaluable travel resource for years to come,” said Outside editor Christopher Keyes in a release.

Check out a few winners we think adventure travel lovers will be excited to learn more about, after the jump:

Best Family Destination:
Winner: South Africa
Runner-up: The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Gorman Chairback Lodge (Maine) and Highland Center at Crawford Notch (New Hampshire

Best Islands:

Winner: Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada


Best Adventure Hub:
Winner: Kununurra,

Best Airport Food:
Urban Garden Farmer’s Market, Terminal 3, Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Best New Frontiers:
Suriname

Don’t miss their new Facebook contest to celebrate the awards either. Five grand prize winners will get the chance to go on their dream adventure: Rafting Idaho’s Main Salmon River with OARS; backcountry glacier skiing/boarding in Alaska with Alaska Mountain Guides & Climbing School, Inc.; a Galápagos islands expedition with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic; an Amazon rainforest adventure in Ecuador with ROW Adventures; and cycling and wine tasting in the Santa Barbara countryside with Duvine Cycling + Adventure Co.

What do you think of the winners? Have you visited any of the destinations or tried any of the outfitters?

Outside magazine’s inaugural ‘Travel Awards’ winners

travel awardsWith twenty-three categories and every continent up for consideration, the competition is fierce, but today Outside magazine released its picks for its new Outside Travel Awards. The winners include everything from travel companies and locales to cameras, suitcases, hotels, and apps, road-tested by those in the know (you know, those people).

Amongst the chosen is Seattle-based Mountain Madness, a mountain adventure guide service and mountaineering school, for its new Tsum Valley trek in Nepal, named “Best Trip in the Himalayas.” Known in sacred Buddhist texts as the “Hidden Valley of Happiness,” the Tsum Valley lies on the edge of the more visited Manaslu Conservation Area, which opened just three years ago to tourism.

Best travel company Geographic Expeditions (GeoEx) has “consistently taken travelers to the most remote regions of the world, from Everest’s north side to Patagonia’s glaciers to the far reaches of Papua New Guinea. This year its trailblazing new terrain with a 27-day trek to the north face of K2 ($11,450).” Bonus: “the price of every GeoEx trip includes medical assistance and evacuation coverage from Global Rescue and medical-expense insurance through Travel Guard.” Not too shabby.

Also making the list: Myanmar is the “Best New Frontier;” Canon Powershot G-12 makes the “Best Camera;” the “Best New Adventure Lodge” is the Singular, outside of Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile; and the “Best Eco-Lodge” is the architectural marvel, The Mashpi in Ecuador.

[Photo credit: Flickr user tarotastic]

Summer adventures in Aspen, Colorado

Apsen, Colorado is still a great adventure destination in the summer!Everyone knows that Aspen, Colorado is one of the top skiing and snowboarding destinations in all of North America, if not the world. With an average of about 300 inches of powder falling on an annual basis, the place is a veritable winter wonderland for anyone looking to spend some time on the slopes. Add in an interesting mix of culture, cuisine, and shopping, and you truly have a world-class ski town that will keep you entertained whether you’re on the slopes or off.

The opportunities for adventure don’t disappear with the snow however, and Aspen has plenty to offer visitors in the warmer months as well. The town is an epicenter for outdoor activities serving up fantastic options for climbing, rafting, fly fishing, mountain biking, and more. I recently got a taste of this first hand when I visited the Colorado town to attend Outside in Aspen, an annual event sponsored by Outside magazine that celebrates the outdoor and adventure lifestyle.

Residents of Colorado are proud of their famously rugged mountains, and with 53 peaks rising above 14,000 feet in height, they have good reason to be. Six of those “14ers”, as they are known locally, lie within a short distance of Aspen, offering a variety of climbing challenges depending on skill levels and the time of the year. The tallest of these is Castle Peak, a 14,265-foot mountain that is a challenging, although non-technical, climb, which features an exposed knife-edge ridge on the final approach to the summit. It is an excellent introduction to mountaineering, and a great place for would-be climbers to notch their first 14er.This past winter brought record snowfalls to the Rocky Mountains, and the spring melt-off has resulted in some epic kayaking and rafting opportunities. The Upper Roaring Fork River is just minutes away from Aspen, and offers fantastic paddling in any year, although 2011 is proving to be even more exceptional that usual. Traditionally, this leg of the river provides Class III rapids, but this spring they’ve been running a little higher and wilder than usual.

Even in the summer they're thinking about snow in Aspen, ColoradoFurther downstream, that same river has been designated a Gold Medal fishery as well, making it the perfect location for beginner and experienced fly fishermen alike. After a bit of instruction and practice, nearly anyone can wade out into the Roaring Fork and start reeling in large trout. But unfortunately, the same spring thaws that have made the rafting in Aspen so good this year, have also made it difficult for those looking to fish the river. Prospective anglers will want to call ahead to check the conditions, as the Roaring Fork was closed for fishing while I was in town.

Of course, a visit to Aspen isn’t just about the outdoor adventure activities, although they are a large part of what gives the city its identity. Because of its status as a world-class ski destination, Aspen is home to a number of fantastic hotels and restaurants as well, which ensures that no matter which season you visit, you’ll find excellent dining and entertainment. For a night out on the town, I recommend dropping by Casa Tua or Pacifica to dinner, then stopping by the Belly-Up for drinks and live music. With the likes of B.B. King, Lyle Lovett, and Slash all having played their in the past, you just never know who might show up.

As for where to stay, you’ll find that Aspen has no shortage of luxury hotels and condos available to serve as your personal base camp. I was lucky enough to spend my weekend in town at The Little Nell, a five star resort that has been a fixture in the Aspen community for more than two decades. The hotel is the only ski-in/ski-out lodge in town, which makes it a perfect place for skiers to maximize their time on the mountains in the winter. During the summer, the hotel features an on-staff adventure concierge who is always standing by to help you plan everything form Jeep tours and hot air ballooning to stand-up paddling and mountain biking. And when you’re done playing outside all day, you can return to a comfortable, spacious room that doesn’t skimp on the amenities. My suite featured a flat screen HDTV, a gas-log fireplace, and a massive bathroom that couples are sure to appreciate. This travel writer appreciated the included WiFi Internet access even more.

My recent trip to Aspen also happened to be my first visit to the iconic mountain town, but after spending a few days there, it isn’t likely to be my last. Even during my brief stay there, it was clear that it was a great destination for adventure travelers year-round. Obviously, it is much busier and more crowded in the winter, when the ski season is in full swing, but the summer has its own charms and opens up the possibilities for many more activities. No matter which time you decide to go, you won’t be disappointed however, as Aspen just happens to be one of those magical places where there always seems to be more to see and do than you can possibly fit in.

Aspen to host ultimate adventure weekend in June

Outside in Apsen will be a weekend to rememberThis June, Aspen, Colorado will be ground zero for the outdoor adventure crowd when the city plays host to the second annual Outside in Aspen weekend. The event, which is sponsored by Outside magazine, features top adventure athletes, numerous outdoor activities, and plenty of rockin’ parties as well.

The event kicks off with a welcome party at the Sky Hotel on Friday, June 10, but the real festivities get going the following day. At 8 AM on both Saturday and Sunday, a host of adventure activities get underway, giving visitors the chance to mountain bike, paddle, cycle, hike, and climb with top outdoor athletes, including professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton and pro kayaker Brad Ludden. There will also be an adventure filmmaking and photography workshop, and the annual Aspen Triathlon will also take place on Saturday as well.

When not participating in these great activities, visitors can hang out at the Adventure Base Camp, which will offer a number of outdoor related exhibits, gear giveaways, and refreshments as well. The Base Camp will also be the site of the Adventure Symposium on Sunday, where a panel of adventurers and explorers will discuss the risks and rewards of extreme adventure.

All in all, it should be another fantastic weekend for outdoor enthusiasts, and two-night lodging packages are available for attendees at very reasonable prices. Visitors to the event can stay for as little as $99 per person in double occupancy rooms at a number of hotels in the city. Visit the Outside in Aspen website for all the details. Adventure activities are priced separately and can also be booked via the website.

Outside in Aspen looks like it will be a great way to kick off the summer, with a fantastic weekend of adventure in the middle of June. From what I understand, last year’s event was a lot of fun, and it looks like the second iteration will be even better. Besides, do you really need much of an excuse to go play in the mountains of Colorado?

[Photo credit: Outside in Aspen]


Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.